The Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education has placed the department’s supervisor on a long-term paid administrative leave "as part of staffing reorganization."
According to a settlement agreement approved last month, Brandy Hollis will be on paid administrative leave until June 30, followed by unpaid administrative leave through July 31. According to the agreement, her contract, which would have ended in November, is then terminated "for the convenience of the district as part of staffing reorganization."
Beth Hunter has been named interim transportation supervisor during Hollis’ paid and unpaid leave and will assume the duties of transportation supervisor Aug. 1 through July 31, 2022. Hunter will be paid $41,980.17 for her time as interim supervisor; as transportation supervisor, she will have an annual salary of $74,845.58.
Hollis was hired by the district in November 2018 under a two-year contract at an annual salary of $66,078.
Copies of the agreement and Hollis’ personnel file were received by the Stow Sentry as part of a public records request.
S David Worhatch, Hollis’ attorney, declined to comment on the agreement. Mark Manley, the district’s assistant superintendent, did not respond to a request for comment on the agreement.
Hollis was placed on paid involuntary administrative leave of absence from Sept. 17 to Sept. 20, during which she was assigned to her home and required to be available for phone calls from other administrators. Effective Sept. 23, she was assigned to work from an office at Kimpton Middle School "to identify long term solutions to the bussing [sic] issues we faced at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year and continue to face after nearly a month into the new school year," according to the notice of administrative leave/?adjustment of duties from assistant superintendent Mark Manley to Hollis.
While working on those "systemic issues," she was relieved of her day-to-day supervisor duties at the bus garage and its operations, to enable her "to focus on more global issues and solutions" and a plan to be in place prior to the 2020-21 school year. The notice also referenced social media posts by Hollis’ family members claiming to have knowledge of "inside information"; Hollis was directed to avoid sharing any district and transportation-related information with anyone outside the district, which could "cause distress and interfere with progress we are attempting to make."
That notice followed a Sept. 9 memo from Rob Gress, director of operations for the district, summarizing a conversation between him and Hollis. Gress required her to divide her workload with other transportation em-ployees, "due to both your own verbalization that you were overwhelmed and not able to both address the multitude of issues and by my own observations confirming this."
Busing for students did not go smoothly at the beginning of the school year, with many parents taking to social media to complain, the most serious being a situation where two younger students were reported missing after they did not get off at their assigned stop. The two students were eventually found safe on the bus and taken home, but the incident led parents to question whether the district’s procedures should be changed.
At an August meeting of the school board, parents brought complaints that included students told to get on the wrong bus, bus stops changed with little or no advance warning, buses not picking up students until after the school day started, students’ commutes home lasting more than an hour, and an overall lack of communication.
The district also received complaints from families from area private schools bused by the Stow-Munroe Falls City School District about late buses, saying their children have arrived late to school frequently.
Hollis was employed by the Streetsboro City Schools District as its director of transportation from March 2018 to October 2018. Previous to that she was employed by Petermann Transportation in the Hudson School District as a router from August 2014 to February 2018; a driver and a shop clerk from August 2012 to August 2014; and a driver for Laidlaw from July 2006 to August 2012.
In her letter of introduction when applying to the Stow-Munroe Falls district, Hollis indicated she had "overcome significant hurdles" in her Streetsboro position and believed her experience had made her "wiser and stronger."
In her evaluation conducted in May 2019, Hollis either exceeded or met expectations in the 15 standards, with the superintendent making a recommendation to renew her administrative contract.
Settlement agreement reached to ‘settle all matters of controversy’
According to the settlement agreement, "a dispute arose" in September between the school board and Hollis regarding "employment issues and operational objectives," which prompted the board to authorize placing her on paid administrative leave.
Terms of the agreement include:
• No disciplinary records shall be added by the school board or administrators to her personnel file after July 31, 2019.
• Hollis will be able to claim and use her accumulated vacation and personal leave during the unpaid leave of absence period. Any accumulated sick leave days remaining may be transferred to another public employer she may accept employment with. However she will not accrue vacation, personal and sick leave days during the paid and unpaid leave.
• Any inquiries from a future employer regarding her employment with Stow-Munroe Falls will be referred to the assistant superintendent/?director of human resources without "on or off the record comment." That individual will then provide "neutral information" to include only that Ms. Hollis’s contract was terminated as part of the staffing reorganization, her dates of employment and her annualized salary.
• The agreement terms are to be kept confidential except "as may otherwise be compelled under Ohio law." Hollis agrees the agreement and its content will not be disclosed to anyone other than her legal counsel, immediate family members, her accountant, her tax consultant or as required by law.
• During both the paid and unpaid leave periods, Hollis is to remain off board property unless requested and/?or approved by the director of business operations. In addition, during any period the district is remitting salary payments or the value of her accumulated vacation or personal leave, she is to remain available between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on days when the district is open in the event of a question arising regarding transportation operations.
• The parties agree that no "disparaging or derogatory statements against or about the other" will be made in any form, including to the media and through personal social media accounts and postings. Hollis’ obligations include, but are not limited to, disparaging or derogatory comments by her and/?or family members about the board, its members, administrators, directors, staff members as well as students and parents receiving educational and/?or transportation services from the district. If Hollis, her immediate family members or anyone representing her violate this directive, further payments can be authorized to be withheld to the expiration of the agreement. She would still receive the value of her accumulated leave.
• If Hollis would accept employment elsewhere during the paid leave period that was equal or greater to her current salary and benefits, payments from the Stow-Munroe Falls district would cease and she would still receive the value of her accumulated leave. Other employment situations would also affect the remittance of her salary. The board also agrees it will not oppose any application for unemployment as long as it is not made prior to 14 days preceding the date all salary remittance ends.
• The board will pay attorney fees and reimbursement for related expenses for Hollis not to exceed $2,000.
Marsha McKenna can be reached at 330-541-9430 or at email@example.com.